BEIJING, June 1 -- China's first independently developed passenger jet will take off on its maiden flight in 2008.
The 70-seater ARJ21 turbofan aircraft is due to make it's first flight in March 2008 after being fully assembled by the end of next year.
The plane, slated to run regional lines and now being built by the China Aviation Industry Corporation I (AVIC I), will become available to buyers in September 2009, said the company's President Liu Gaozhuo at a working meeting in Beijing.
He added that the corporation aims to produce 11 ARJ21s a year by 2010, taking a lion's share of the world's fiercely-competitive civil aviation market.
Design work began on the aircraft in March 2002.
AVIC I Senior Vice-President Yang Yuzhong said the plane entered the final trial production stage yesterday, having already completed a feasibility study, preliminary development, and development period.
Zhang Yunchuan, head of the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defence (COSTIND), said more than 40 orders have already been placed for ARJ21s, despite production having yet to begin.
Buyers include Shanghai Airlines, he said.
"This is a milestone for China's aviation industry, in that it is the country's first independently-developed civil aviation programme and a prerequisite for future trunk-liners," Zhang said.
Zhang said 19 foreign suppliers have become risk partners in developing the ARJ21.
According to the Xinhua News Agency, there are only 74 feeder liners planes suitable for use on non-trunk lines currently available on the Chinese mainland, although more than 600 will be needed in the coming two decades.
Demand from the international feeder line transport market is expected to exceed 4,000.
Wu Guanghui, chief designer of ARJ21 and president of the AVIC I First Aircraft Institute, said after all types of experiments last year the plane has finally met its designed flight characteristics.
"Ninety per cent of the plane's components will be made by the end of this year," he said.
AVIC I set up shareholding firm Commercial Aircraft Co Ltd (ACAC) in September 2002 to develop civil aircraft. ACAC is now the co-ordinator in developing the ARJ21.
Wu said they plan to develop a series of ARJ21 planes, seating between 70 and 110, in order to meet the diverse air industry's demands.
He added that passengers would be very comfortable onboard the turbofan aircraft, which will have a range of 3,600 kilometres.
Shao Xiaoyun, vice-president of Shanghai Airlines, said they are fully confident on the success of ARJ21, and as a buyer the airline will offer its full support to the feeder liner.
China's air transport industry has expanded at an annual rate of 18 per cent since 1978, and more than 90 feeder liners have been built in the mainland's medium-scale cities in recent years.
However the share of feeder liners among China's total fleet still less than 10 per cent.
The Chinese mainland, which has the second most air traffic in the world, now has some 570 general aviation aircraft, said the Xinhua News Agency.
Over the past 51 years COSTIND has produced Chinese-made Y-7, Y-8 and Y-10 aircraft for military use.
And speaking on condition of anonymity last night COSTIND officials said they are now developing a Y-12E general-purpose aircraft for use in high-temperature and plateau conditions as well as providing Z-11 and Z-9 helicopters for the commercial market.
(Source: China Daily)